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Concerns over side effects and potential complications with Mirena and other IUDs, or intra-uterine devices, may be stopping many doctors in the United States from recommending the birth control products for their patients, according to a new government study.
IUDs, which are sometimes referred to as an IUS, or intra-uterine system, are long-acting contraceptives that are inserted into the uterus to disrupt the egg and sperm system, and prevent pregnancy over a period of several years.
Mirena is the brand name for one of the more widely used IUDs, releasing the hormone progestin levonorgestrel. A version sold under the brand name ParaGard releases small amounts of copper to prevent pregnancy.
According to a report published in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that fears over side effects of IUDs may be causing doctors to be more cautious than they should be.
CDC researchers surveyed about 2,000 U.S. health providers, including OB/GYNs, family doctors, nurses and other care personnel. They found that 30% of all those surveyed thought IUDs were unsafe for women who had not yet had a child or they were uncertain whether they were safe. The fears have led to 60% deciding to only provide them occasionally, and usually that was only when their patient expressed a preference for the devices.
When IUDs were first introduced to the market, they carried a warning that they were contraindicated for women who had never had children due to fears of pelvic infection. Those concerns have been disproven by later studies, according to the researchers.
In recent years, additional concerns have surfaced over other potential problems with IUDs, including perforation of the uterine wall, migration of the IUD, infections and ectopic pregnancies (where the egg grows outside the uterus).
A prior FDA report also pointed out that at least 5% of Mirena IUD recipients reported decreased libido in clinical trials. They also noted that women using Mirena had reported side effects including irregular bleeding, ovarian cysts, back pain, weight increase, breast pain and tenderness, and acne.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other groups have indicated that IUDs are a highly effective as sterilization that is reversible. CDC researchers stress that IUDs are safe for women who’ve never given birth, and reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancies associated with other forms of birth control, since they do not require any further action after they are implanted.